National conference visits Carbondale

By Gus Bode

Peace Training Institute teaches non-violent protest

Forced into labor for food, the underprivileged lower class rebels against its wealthy oppressors. Fearing for its high-ranking position, the upper class uses tactics such as espionage and weapons to control the situation.

While this may seem like something out of a movie, it is actually the end of a game, developed to simulate economic divergences between underdeveloped and developed countries.

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People from all over the nation came to Carbondale two weeks ago as part of the Peacemaker Training Institute (PTI), held Aug. 3 through 13 and hosted by the Campus Shawnee Greens, a Registered Student Organization.

PTI is a series of national conferences hosted in conjunction with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a national peace coalition. It is designed to teach students how to use non-violent methods to address the need for social and economic change.

According the Joel Landry, a senior in economics and political science from Springfield and one of the key organizers of the function, PTI was designed to demonstrate non-violent means of protest through a series of activities.

“The core theme was really how to get involved,” said Lisa Tozer, a senior in political science from Fort Madison, Iowa.

The 18 to 20 full-time participants, as well as some part-time visitors, attended lectures and speeches and participated in simulations on various topics throughout the 10-day conference.

One activity simulated global economic inequalities and how these differences can affect relations between countries and individual development.

Each person participating in the activity was a country, such as the United States and Botswana, and each country was designated money based upon their economic status.

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Each individual was required to buy food, water and shelter in order to survive. In the end, the poorer countries sold labor to buy things they needed to live.

Each country was also subject to chance occurrences, such as mudslides, natural disasters or an outbreak of AIDS in the case of Botswana, where it is an epidemic, which would drain the country of some of its funds.

Landry said that by the close of the activity, the poorer countries had joined in protest, while the wealthier countries had enlisted spies and purchased fake weaponry in order to stay on top.

“Someone hired spies to protect national security, hired security guards and turned cutting boards into machine guns,” he said. “We thought they were regular cutting boards, but no, they were machine guns.”

“It was amazing how it turned out, the way the people banded together,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Tim Sams, a professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, also spoke to the group about disintegrating racial discrimination and the history of social movements through music. Other speakers ventured through such topics as feminism and multiculturalism.

“Participants learned about non-violent philosophies and were also given input on how to get involved and how to react on the local level,” Tozer said.

Landry said he really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot throughout the course of the conference.

“It went better than I expected,” he said. “This was just an amazing chance for people to learn together as a group.”

Reporter Katie A. Davis can be reached at [email protected]

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